Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Army gets the Goose

U.S. Army Gets Big-Ass Old-School Gun — War is Boring — Medium:


Image public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The first time I saw the Carl Gustav recoilless rifle (AKA the Goose) in action was during late 90s, in the hands of US Army Rangers. I got stuck supporting a training deployment for one of their battalions in Germany. While the assignment was tedious, it did afford me the opportunity to see the advanced gear the unit had. That included the Carl's nifty ability to lob a variety of round types at long range - from flechette clouds, to bunker-busting high explosives, to (nowadays) air-bursting anti-personal munitions. Along with the versatility was the price. Recoilless rifles are a cheap and proven technology, but one that also mates easily with new rounds and improved sensors.

While the Rangers and other special operations units have continued to use the Carl Gustav in the decade plus since then, I was surprised that the Army never adapted it for conventional light infantry units. Since the Army ditched the LAW light anti-tank rocket during the early 80s, the light fighters have been bereft of a good and cheap, man-portable anti-bunker and anti light armor system. (The AT-4 is OK. Light and portable, but not accurate at anything past short range).

It looks that's finally going to be rectified with funding to equip regular light infantry units with the Goose.

While I like speculating about the potentials in current day bleeding-edge tech, and writing about future technology that's still out on the horizon, sometimes reliable low-tech is the way to go on the battlefield. Or rather low tech that compliments or hybridizes well with high tech. Low tech is certainly good when the alternative is expending an $80,000 Javelin missile to destroy a dirt fighting position manned by two Taliban.

In a way, I think the Carl and its expanded array of rounds and sensor options is indicative of the future of infantry weapons. The current arrow of evolution appears to be pointing towards flexible weapons with with multiple types of rounds for both direct and indirect fire, as well as optimized for anti-armor or anti-personnel. Or possibly both. As the rounds get smarter, it's possible that even the infantry will be toting a single large-caliber munition that can be set to air burst, explode on contact, or melt through armor as an explosively formed penetrator.

Which is a scary or exhilarating prospect depending on which side of the round you think you'll find yourself.

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